Regulators Should Ban Crypto Advertising in Sports

Just because someone can hit a home run or throw a touchdown pass, he shouldn’t be allowed to give financial advice.

AccessTimeIconJul 26, 2022 at 9:30 p.m. UTC
Updated Jun 14, 2024 at 8:17 p.m. UTC

I’ve long been a critic of broadcast and cable networks for permitting “sin” products to be advertised during the hours when impressionable youngsters are watching a sporting event.

Ever since I can remember, touchdowns, home runs and other achievements in sports have been associated with beer ads. A few years ago, the alcoholic beverage industry grew more aggressive and began featuring hard liquor commercials. And because of the legalization of online betting, watching a game today is similar to being at a bookies convention.

Arthur Solomon was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller and spokesman for the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee. This piece is part of CoinDesk's Sports Week.

Then there’s crypto. In recent years, digital asset firms have signed deals with countless celebrities to pitch their products. Blockchain protocols (including an infamously defunct one) advertise at our nation’s stadiums and arenas. Not to sound out of touch, but the government should put a stop to this flagrant activity. It has done that before.

The one “sin” product that is no longer permitted to advertise on TV sporting events are cigarettes and other tobacco products. But that’s not because the networks, sports marketers, teams or leagues didn’t want to continue calling a home run an “Old Goldie,” as it was described on the Brooklyn Dodgers broadcasts. The government banned tobacco commercials on television.

Now some people might think I am anti-sports. They couldn’t be more wrong. For a number of years I was a sports writer and editor for New York City dailies and a wire service before crossing the fence to public relations after several news outlets went bust.

After 10 years at a national PR agency, I was recruited by Burson-Marsteller, a giant international agency. My assignments there included redesigning the fan balloting publicity program for Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., and assorted sports marketing projects for corporate accounts, including the Olympics. I was designated the U.S. spokesman for the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee and acted as a troubleshooter at the 1988 Summer Games.

During my stretch at B-M, I most often selected the athletes to be used in sports marketing accounts. I’m not anti-sports or anti-athletes. I believe that any entertainer or sports star should make as much money as he or she can. But there’s the rub.

It’s almost impossible to find a celebrity athlete who doesn’t remind me of a sideshow pitchman. In fact, some athletes endorse so many products that an individual needs a scorecard to remember which athlete is backing which product.

Moreover, athletes are increasingly endorsing highly risky crypto projects and products. This is irresponsible, considering the trust or envy our top performing athletes can engender. Is the money so good that you’d want to contribute to others losing theirs?

Banning crypto

While celebrity athlete’s endorsements shouldn’t be taken seriously by consumers, government regulators should put a stop to athletes’ endorsements of crypto.

A Yahoo Finance article in January reported that “cryptocurrency popularity has boomed in recent years, and celebrities have gotten in on the fanfare. But as criminal activity in the space soars, so has the likelihood that influencer endorsements could lure investors into costly digital-asset scams.”

A May article by Market Realist said, “Crypto exchanges have found a way to market their products in the sports industry, and they have taken full advantage of that. The crypto exchanges have invested billions of dollars into sports teams and players.”

I believe that crypto endorsements by teams, leagues and athletes should be banned because it’s largely unregulated investment advice. There are professional investment advisers who are regulated by the government to give financial advice, and I believe that the Federal Trade Commission and other government agencies shouldn’t permit someone, just because he can hit a home run or throw a touchdown pass, to give financial advice on public airwaves.

I also believe that leagues and teams are shameless, and that crypto is even worse than the beer and liquor and gambling commercials viewed by kids and vulnerable adults during games. Crypto gambling can bankrupt a family. Until it is regulated at the federal and state levels, like other financial assets are, much of it can be a con.

In fact, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says more government regulation is needed to police the proliferation of cryptocurrency and ward off fraudulent or illicit transactions, according to an Associated Press story.

If you believe that celebrity athletes know what they're talking about when they endorse crypto publicly, the Brooklyn Bridge is once again up for sale.

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Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs.